Last week, the Tampa Bay Times took Tallahassee Mayor-turned-gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum to task for his hypocritical attacks on Gwen Graham for her vote in favor of the Keystone pipeline. The Times story pointed out that even though Gillum ultimately voted against a coal-fired plant slated for construction in North Florida, Gillum initially supported the concept:
Gillum, however, has a vote on his record that could give environmentalists at least as much pause as Graham’s Keystone vote: As a Tallahassee city commissioner in 2005 he voted for Tallahassee to join a group of cities and public utilities to build a $1.5 billion coal-fired power plant in north Florida.
But regardless of Gillum’s stated public positions on coal, he is more deeply linked to the coal industry than he’d care to admit. His financial dependence on liberal mega-donor George Soros (yes, that one) or members of the Soros family have given Gillum well over half a million dollars in political contributions so far this cycle. The most recent contribution came earlier this week and weighed in at a whopping $250,000.
Then there is Gillum’s moonlighting salary that he’s collected over the years from People for the American Way, a liberal activist group that has also received big donations from Soros. Gillum has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from the group in salary. He resigned from a $140,000 per year salaried job after TallahasseeReports.com called him out for violating a campaign pledge to take a pay cut from the group.
There are other, more shadowy links to Soros as well, including a dark-money PAC called “The Collective,” which took in $70,000 from Soros and is the sister organization to the Collective Future, a 501(c)(4) group that has also generously supported Gillum’s bid for governor to the tune of another quarter-million dollars.
Gillum’s problem isn’t Soros himself, but rather his dependence on Soros’s investments in the coal industry. When combined with his aforementioned vote on a coal-fired plant in Florida, activists are questioning Gillum’s own commitment to the environment. Soros’s investments include stock in Peabody Coal and in Arch Coal, which has engaged in the controversial practice of mountaintop removal.
Gillum doesn’t apologize for his financial dependence on Soros, though, and instead fired back at rival candidate Graham.
“The Mayor has a strong record on the environment,” said Geoff Burgan, communications director for Gillum’s campaign, “including opening Tallahassee’s new 120-acre solar farm last year, and we have better ways to power our lives than coal or the Keystone XL Pipeline, which Gwen Graham voted for over President Obama’s objections.”
To many Democrats, including Gillum’s opponent in the Democrat primary, it appears that Gillum is ducking the issue.
“Mayor Gillum supported building a coal plant in Florida, yet refuses to offer Democrats any explanation as to why,” said Matt Harringer, Graham’s communications director. “While continuing to lash out at Democrat Gwen Graham, who has always been very candid about her record on energy issues, Mayor Gillum should consider explaining his support for coal in Florida.”